May 13, 2021
Abby Johnson has a number one hen and she’s not afraid to name her. “Lila is my ultimate favourite,” says the 36-year-old Brighton resident of the chicken of her dreams, who lives with Abby’s mum back in rural Maryland.
Brits Cant Stop Hiring Hens – And Theyre Clucking Adorable
The “part-time house chicken” spends her time flitting between the Johnson family homestead and scratching about for insects in the garden, bobbing her head and fluttering her snow-white feathers as she goes.
Each morning, Lila shows up at the back door and waits to be invited in. She’ll have some treats by the fire before hopping up on to a seat and settling down for a bit. Abby recalls how Lila was the perfect companion for her late father – she’d sit with – or rather, on top of – him each morning as he read his paper.
And since Abby’s dad died, Lila has become a source of companionship and strength for her mum, too. “She basically runs the household,” she says.Johnson, who grew up with chickens from the age of four in her native US, now has 68 hens of her own, who live happily on a farm in Kent. That is, when they’re not being rented out via her excellently named HenPals exchange.
Set up in July 2020, the scheme encourages people to hire a pair of hens for a few weeks at a time, along with a coop and the necessary hen-keeping kit, letting the feathered Friends into their homes and, all too often, hearts.
Business is booming for Johnson, who is a one-woman machine – splitting her time between taking bookings, answering customer queries, delivering hens (and all their paraphernalia) to their new temporary homes and teaching people how to look after them. Demand is so busy there’s currently a waiting list.
Britain’s love affair with chickens has taken off with all the extra time we’ve spent, ahem, cooped up at home. In March 2020, the rehoming charity Fresh Start for Hens received a whopping 52,000 requests for pet hens. Helen is one of the Brits who has taken to chicken rearing like a duck to water. With her husband Tom and their two boys Henry, five, and George, two, they’ve just finished a four-week hen hire programme in Dorking, Surrey.
“I really wanted to have an activity to involve the children in over the Easter holidays,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Both boys love visiting farms, animals and being outdoors but with most attractions still closed due to Covid restrictions, I thought the hire scheme would be an enjoyable experience for us all.” 
She spotted an ad for HenPals on Social Media and decided to give it a go – you hire a pair of hens for four or 12 weeks (at £195 or £380) and if you then become besotted with them, you have the chance to buy them outright.
Many do become attached, Abby notes, with roughly one in three customers keeping their hens for good. People like Karen Steadman, 56, from Maidstone, who had been considering getting hens for a few years but had worried about the commitment and expense, especially as she’d never had a pet before.
Steadman and her husband Mark took in two hens for 12 weeks, which they named Betty and Dora. “Betty is the noisy one and Dora is the one who will push and shove for food,” says Karen.The “girls”, as she calls them, are always on hand for company – and to cause trouble. “In the autumn, not long after they had arrived, Mark was sweeping leaves on the lawn and every time he turned his back, one of the hens would be on the neat pile, kicking and scratching them back over the lawn,” says Steadman.
The keen gardener also had to make peace with her pansies being destroyed. “They will scratch at any bare soil, bark, or gravel and are especially fond of pansies,” she says. “I learnt the hard way with a couple of pots and borders.”
Some bits of the garden are now fenced off as “chicken no-go areas”, but they do have a “hen spa” area in a sunny corner under a plant with dry soil where they like to sunbathe and dust-bathe, she says. And if it’s not obvious, the Steadmans couldn’t bear to give their hens back at the end of the 12 weeks – so Betty and Dora are now permanent residents in their garden.
It’s no surprise many end up keeping their hens when they bring so many benefits: not only do they guarantee a plentiful supply of eggs, but they are excellent insect eaters and a source of joy to watch go about their daily business. Hens are good for getting you outdoors and bring a sense of purpose and routine – you have to wake up to let them out of their coops, feed them, and give them time to run around (supervised) for at least an hour a day.They are also a great way for kids to learn about food production and the responsibility of caring – it’s this welfare aspect which is hugely important to Johnson and one of the reasons she set up HenPals in the first place.
In Dorking, Helen’s family cared for two brown hens, which their son Henry happily named Digger and Sausage. “From the off, Henry, who loves digging around in the dirt himself, was won over by Digger’s interest in bug hunting – a champion worm finder,” says Helen.
“Henry would dig the dirt and Sausage and Digger would be there scratching around and gobbling up worms. Then an afternoon dust bath was in order, which Henry was in awe of and naturally had to join. The hens were so comfortable with the close contact of small children and very tolerant of being handled and stroked.”When Johnson had first dropped off Sausage and Digger, she taught the family how to hold them, feed them and, crucially, keep them safe. The next morning, the delighted family woke to their first egg. From then on, each hen laid an egg a day. 
“Henry gladly took on the responsibility of opening up the coop in the morning and egg collecting,” Helen says. “6am every morning, he was out there.”
More people working from home is a big reason why Johnson believes hen hire has taken off. Helen says she would often sit outside with a coffee and the hens would “run over to say hello”. “They are an excellent reason to take a break and get outside in the garden rather than working through breaks,” she says. 
While Digger and Sausage have since returned to the farm in Kent, she says it’s been a great experience for the boys and given the whole family a confidence boost. “We are now determined that keeping hens is in our future,” she says. Related...30+ Foods That Are Great News For Your Immune SystemTikTok's Bell Pepper Sandwich Is Not Going Away – Here Are The Best RecipesThere's An 'Airbnb' For Garden Rental, Here's How It Works
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Bringing Untold History to the Screen in 'Small Axe's' Activist Scene
June 21, 2021
BsOaWmw3HCM
'Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer' Director Dawn Porter Joins Variety's Doc Dreams
June 17, 2021
oMAMai1pFn0
Elisabeth Moss & Gillian Anderson on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and Margaret Thatcher | Actors on Actors
June 09, 2021
1JjqYnbQJtU
NFL Star Carl Nassib Comes Out as Gay & Shows Support In a Big Way | E! News
June 21, 2021
_ZEqZ4GLVK8
Khloé Kardashian & Tristan Thompson Split Again | E! News
June 21, 2021
c_UcKYg6-eY
Olivia Wilde Sidesteps Harry Styles Acting Questions | E! News
June 21, 2021
KPry4D2AHAo
Deepak Chopra’s super-spiritual house with ‘God rays’ listed for $5M | Page Six Celebrity News
June 21, 2021
_LqsyYtcZ90
Braunwyn Windham-Burke confirms relationship with ‘RHOC’ alum | Page Six Celebrity News
June 21, 2021
NtLWMFTsKi0
Anthony Bourdain’s NYC apartment up for rent with $2,200 price cut | Page Six Celebrity News
June 21, 2021
8TW879a3_Vs
YG Wants to Bring TeleHealth Van Service to Released Prisoners Too
June 22, 2021
Yek54OScYn4
Wolfgang Puck Mistook Ariana Grande for Student Dining at His Restaurant | TMZ
June 21, 2021
_p2bIf9TwFE
Kim Kardashian Says She Owes Kris Humphries Apology for Mishandling Split | TMZ TV
June 21, 2021
HKVVCFzUXKI
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
19
Nov
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group H
Sydney FC - Shanghai SIPG
17
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Spain - Germany
14
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Germany - Ukraine
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Liverpool
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Aston Villa
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Valencia - Real Madrid
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Verona
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Bromwich Albion - Tottenham Hotspur
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Napoli
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Roma
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Inter Milan
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - Juventus
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Monchengladbach
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Wolves
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Wolfsburg - Hoffenheim
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Valladolid - Athletic Bilbao
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Alaves
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Sociedad - Granada CF
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Torino - Crotone
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Villarreal
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern Munich
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Manchester United
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Sheffield United
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Cadiz
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Real Betis
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Augsburg - Hertha Berlin
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Stuttgart - Eintracht Frankfurt
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
RB Leipzig - SC Freiburg
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Rotherham - Preston NE
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Fiorentina
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Watford - Coventry
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Norwich City - Swansea City
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Blackburn - QPR
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Derby County - Barnsley
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Huddersfield - Luton
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Nottingham Forest - Wycombe Wanderers
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Fulham
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Sheffield Wednesday - Millwall
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Brentford - Middlesbrough
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Birmingham - Bournemouth
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Sevilla - Osasuna
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Benevento - Spezia
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Leeds
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Ferencvaros - Juventus
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Barcelona - Dynamo K.
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group A
Salzburg - Bayern Munich
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group D
Atalanta - Liverpool
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.